Queen of Light took her bow
And then she turned to go
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom
And walked the night alone…
The pain of war cannot exceed
The woe of aftermath.
August 24, 3016, 22:46 local time, Interior, South Dakota, Planet Earth
“Go, go, go,” he yelled, laying down covering fire in the pouring rain, as the last of the girls ran past.
The war was almost over, and the Confederation was pulling out everywhere, trying to consolidate its hold on the few planets they had left. Everywhere but Earth, that is. They were going to make the DOOP pay in blood to retake their home.
The Confeds put out rumors that President Ohm himself was moving his command to Earth to oversee the final battle. DOOP Intelligence and Command thought it was a perfect chance to take the head off the snake. To them, it looked too good to be true, and it was. Ohm had been there, but so had over 5,000 battle-tested Confederate soldiers, all waiting for the 60 Daughters that they brought. The raid had been a disaster. They had lost almost all of the Daughters, and all of their air cover. Well, almost, he thought as he saw the purple, arrow-shaped Delta-7 fighter roared overhead, racing to strafe more of the Confederates chasing them.
Over the com, she asked, “How’s it going, dear?”
“Terrible,” he replied. “I only got seven of them out, including Kyrie.”
Letting out a breath she hadn’t realized that she had been holding, she asked, “And the bomb?”
“Two minutes. Not where Command wanted, but with that thing, close is good enough.”
“Roger. I’ll give it 90 seconds and then bug out for space. That should give me enough time to escape the EMP. How are the girls?”
“Shaken, but they’re our Daughters. They’ll be fine. They’re running for the recovery zone.”
“Why aren’t you?”
“Rearguard. I’ll be on my way in a minute.”
“You have five seconds, Captain Fry.”
“Yes, ma’am, Major Fry,” he said with a smile. “Love you.”
“Love you too,” Leela replied.
He started running as she started firing on the Confederates. He had just over a minute to get out of the blast zone. He hoped he was far enough away from the epicenter that the radiation wouldn’t affect him much, but he was worried about the shock wave. Looking around, the Badlands didn’t look very stable at the moment.
Lightning flashed and he caught sight of a small figure struggling through the South Dakota mud. Kyrie hadn’t gotten as far as he had hoped she had. Shaking his head at why his daughter was here in the first place, he scooped her up as he ran past. Her body armor and weapons, added to the weight of his equipment, slowed them even more. I’m getting too old for this, he thought, as he struggled to run. At 42, he was old enough to be every Daughter’s father by a good margin. His breath came in short, labored gasps as his lungs struggled to keep up with demand. They hadn’t been the same since he inhaled some Confed weaponized gas in Brazil back in May. River thought it had been cleared out, but obviously the damage had been done.
“Still don’t know why you’re here, K,” he panted as he struggled to run.
“Mom didn’t want to play favorites,” she replied. “Besides, General Brannigan ordered us all in.”
Fry’s response was cut off by the alarm on his watch going off. Judgment Day had come to the town of Interior, South Dakota. Doing some quick math, he realized that they were still at the edge of the blast zone. Leela’s going to kill me, he thought. If we live, that is.
“Cover your eye, baby,” he said as he shifted her to cover as best he could.
Night exploded into day with a light brighter than a thousand suns. He didn’t turn, but he heard the roar as the mushroom cloud began to rise. Then blast front hit and they were thrown into the air. He tried to turn himself so that he’d take the brunt of the impact when they landed, be he wasn’t fast enough. They hit with a thud, their heads bouncing hard around in their helmets as the landed. The air was driven from his lungs, his left shoulder and both his elbows were in a great deal of pain, and he could taste blood in his mouth. His vision swam as darkness threatened to overtake him. He crawled to where Kyrie had landed, his body screaming in pain with each lurch forward.
“Kyrie,” he croaked as he reached her. He reached out painfully with his right arm and collapsed. The wind shifted and the rain began to fall more heavily as he blacked out.
He was in a world of pain. He had no idea how long he’d been there, time had long lost all meaning. He risked opening his eyes and saw he was floating in a sea of neon blue liquid. They’d put him in the dunk tank, the slang term for the Farnsworth Healing Cylinder. He looked at the front of himself and saw his left shoulder and elbow were a sick shade of black and green, and he saw a mass of burns on the back of his right hand. Feeling around, he had burns on the exposed areas of his neck where the radioactive rain must have hit him. Reaching up, he felt that he still had as much hair as he had before the explosion, but he was pretty sure that would change in the next few days before the radiation poisoning had been purged. Hitting the call button, he was pleased to see Lt. River Suun, the Daughter’s medic. She was just 17, but she was a medical prodigy, and been learning on the job since she joined the Daughters at 13.
“How are you feeling, Father,” she asked smiling at him as she checked his charts.
“Lousy, River,” he said through the rebreather mask he was wearing. “What happened?”
“The search and recovery team picked you and Kyrie up about half a mile from the recovery zone. The eight of us were the only ones who survived the raid. We were all treated for minor burns and radiation poisoning about two days ago. You two have been here ever since. You both took a good dose of radiation. Kyrie’s should be fine, but her mutant DNA is making the purging process a little slow. And for some reason, you’re body has been resistant to most of the purging medicines. We’re synthesizing something for you right now. Until we do, you’re being kept in the Cylinder.”
“I’m over 1,000 years old, River. Maybe it’s something 20th Century related?”
“Blood is blood, sir. It shouldn’t take much longer for us to get you something to take care of it.”
She faltered for a minute before saying, “I don’t know, sir. I’ve asked about Mother, and they won’t tell me anything. They tell me not to worry about it. We’re to rendezvous with General Brannigan in a few days. Maybe you could ask him.”
“A few days?, Fry asked, incredulously. “A few days? That’s my wife and an officer in the DOOP, not a stray dog.”
“I’m sorry, Father,” she said apologetically. “That’s the best I can do.”
Sighing heavily and angrily, he said, “It’s not your fault, River. Just put me back under until I can talk to him.”
“Yes Father. Good night,” she said as she punched a few buttons on the consol next to Fry’s tube and darkness returned.
He woke up in a bed. The burns and bruises felt and looked better today than they had when he woke up in the dunk tank a few days ago, and his left shoulder felt much better. Sitting up slowly, he stretched and cracked a few joints before hitting the call button. The Neptunian nurse said that Lt. Suun had gone to check on the rest of the Daughters and Kyrie. He also said that Lt. Gibbons was meeting with General Brannigan in his place, and that the General would be down as soon as he could. Fry nodded. Tatia, a Neptunian, was his right hand, and a natural leader. She’ll give the idiot an earful about the poor intel that we had, he thought. The nurse also said that he was responding well to the latest round of the purge medication and he should be able to be released in a few days.
There was a knock at the door. Standing there was a young woman dressed in the gray and green of the Daughters. The Daughters of the Revolution had been formed in 3010 by Leela and Fry as a paramilitary group, made up of female orphans, since DOOP regulations and Zapp Brannigan’s own lack of restraint barred them from service. The oldest girl, Tatia, had just turned 19 this past summer, and the youngest, 10, stood before him now: their own daughter, Private Kyrie Turunga Fry. They had both wanted to keep her far away from the war, but there wasn’t any place that was safe anymore. So, they surrounded her with 200 or so bodyguards and older Sisters and took her with them, teaching her what they could as they could. And they tried to sleep every night and live with their decision.
She was her mother’s daughter in every way, except for his hair and eye color: a single green eye stared out from under a mass of bright orange hair. Otherwise, she was a ten year old Leela. She walked over to his bed and waited for the nurse to leave. When he did, she saluted and said with a grin, his stupid, lopsided grin, “Permission to hug, sir.”
He reached out with his right arm and pulled her down on top of him, holding her tight with his right arm. “I thought I‘d lost you, baby,” he said, his voice tight. She wrapped her arms around him as best as she could, trying not to hurt him.
At last, he let her go, making room for her to sit on the bed with him. Holding her hand, he asked, “How are you, K?”
“Better,” she said. “Concussion and a little bit of radiation poisoning, but nothing a soak in the dunk tank couldn’t cure. You?”
“Concussion, broken collar bone on the left side, and radiation poisoning. I’ll be here a few more days. You hear from your mom yet?”
“No, and I’m getting worried. It’s been 4 days daddy, and no one knows anything. I’m scared.”
“Me too, K. The nurse told me that Zapp’s here, and he’ll be coming down when Tatia’s done with him.” She laughed and they sat together for a while, talking about nothing.
“Knock, knock,” a voice drawled form the doorway. Standing there was their commanding officer, Major General Zapp Brannigan. He looked thinner than when Fry had seen him last. Then again, that was almost a year ago. The Daughters had been sent back to Earth to liberate it, while Brannigan had been leading the 3rd Fleet in the Marcellus System.
They had once, in Zapp’s mind anyway, been rivals for Leela. Their wedding and the birth of Kyrie had put that to an end. The war, and the successes of the Daughters, had brought a grudging respect and a small amount of friendship between them. Fry and Leela had made him look good by winning. His own urges had prevented the Daughters from joining the regular forces, and that had made them the most successful unit in the DOOP.
“Come in, Zapp,” Fry said. “We’re just catching up. I need a favor.”
“Just ask,” he said.
Sighing heavily, Zapp pulled over the stool from the desk. “We need to talk about that, Fry.”
Kyrie grabbed his hand hard as he held his breath. He knew what was coming.
“We lost contact with her when the bomb was detonated. We think the EMP disabled some of the systems on her Delta-7 and she crashed.”
“YOU THINK?,” Kyrie yelled.
“At ease, Private,” he snapped back. “We haven’t found the black box and we probably won’t. The fires in the blast radius are still burning, and that was almost week ago. Fry, I’m sorry, but she’s gone.
“Would you leave, Zapp,” he said, empty of any emotion as he grabbed Kyrie. “We need to be alone now.”
Zapp nodded his head and left. He heard Kyrie wailing in grief and pain as he shut the door behind him.